Education: Bachelor’s degree, computer science and electrical engineering, Princeton University
On creating company values: You start making your list of what you think your values are, and they all look pretty much the same. At first that bothered me. ‘Gee, what’s the point? It has the same stuff as anybody honesty, teamwork, blah, blah, blah.’ To me, values of a company are like a constitution for a country. So suppose you were starting a brand-new country and you were trying to think of what the constitution should have in it. Can you imagine the forefathers and foremothers going, ‘You know, we were going to put freedom of speech, but that one was taken.’ No. Freedom of speech is a good one. It’s not taken. The bigger point is not, ‘Is it taken?’ The bigger point is, ‘Do you actually believe it?’
On evaluating risk: A lot of times when people evaluate risk, they compare against the wrong thing. James (Lau, the other co-founder) and I had perfectly good jobs. We decided to quit our jobs and go do a start-up. A lot of people said, ‘Oh my God what are your odds of success? How risky is that?’ And yet, a bunch of friends were quitting their jobs to get an MBA or law degree.
Compare their risk to my risk. They were going to quit their jobs and go spend a couple years not getting paid. I was going to quit my job and spend a couple years not getting paid. At the end, they were going to learn a lot, and at the end, I was going to learn a lot. In the end, I might create a company, and they had no chance of that.
Instead of asking, ‘What are the odds that the good thing might not happen?’ ask, ‘What’s the worst thing that might happen, and what are the odds of that?’ If you convince yourself that the worst thing is not so bad, then whether or not the good thing has some probability of success, that matters less. The risk of an upside not happening, that’s not really a risk. It’s downside risks that might kill you.
To learn more about Hitz and his book, ‘How to Castrate a Bull,’ please visit his Web site at www.howtocastrateabull.com.